How to Respond to Plaintiff's Counsel
Dena Standley | October 19, 2022
Summary: The plaintiff's counsel is just the fancy legal way of saying the opposing side's attorney. If you are sued for a debt you owe, it's important to respond to respond to the case by sending an Answer to the plaintiff's counsel. SoloSuit can help you draft an Answer in minutes.
If you have received a Summons or Complaint in the mail, then you may be a bit worried. There is a lot that goes on in a lawsuit. If you do not respond, then you may have a default judgment ordered against you. This is why it is essential to know how to respond to a plaintiff's counsel.
This article will cover everything you need to know about how to respond to the plaintiff's counsel if you are involved in a lawsuit.
Let's jump right in.
What is the plaintiff's counsel?
In a lawsuit, the plaintiff is the person or company that is suing another person or company. Counsel is just a fancy word for an attorney. So, in a debt collection case, the plaintiff is the party that initiated the case, and their counsel is their attorney.
It is good to note that in some states there is a legal ethics rule that expressly prohibits a non-lawyer client from contacting another party directly. However, if you live in a state where this is legal, then you can do so. Otherwise, you will need to have a lawyer do this for you. This means that you might not be able to contact the person suing you directly, but you can always contact their lawyer and communicate through them.
When you respond to a lawsuit, you must file your documents in the court, but you should also send a copy of them to the opposing attorney. This is how you properly respond to the plaintiff's counsel.
Keep reading to learn more.
Respond to a Summons and Complaint
When you receive a lawsuit in the mail, you must respond with a written Answer or you will lose by default. The Summons document will notify you that you are being sued, but the Complaint tells you the specific claims being made against you. In your Answer, you should focus on responding to each claim from the Complaint.
Here are the three ways you can respond to a claim listed in the Complaint:
- Admit: When you answer with “Admit” you will indicate that the claim is true. Admitting is like agreeing with the plaintiff's claims against you. Essentially, you need to be sure that you want to admit certain claims when you file your Answer.
- Deny: Denying is the legal way of saying that you refuse to admit a claim before the court. It doesn't necessarily mean that the claim isn't true, but just that you are requesting proof of the claim. If you deny the fact, then the plaintiff will need to prove the opposite in court. It is essential that you do not deny a fact that you know to be true. If you do this, it is considered committing perjury.
- Deny due to lack of knowledge: If you have fully reviewed the facts and cannot admit nor deny them, then you can state this. It is a legal method of stating that you do not know what is true or what is false after fully reviewing all of the evidence available.
Keep in mind that most attorneys suggest that you deny as many claims as possible. This will create a stronger case for you, because it requires more work for the plaintiff and their counsel to prove their claims. And if they cannot prove their allegations, they might even drop the case.
SoloSuit can help you draft an Answer in just 15 minutes.
Send all court documents to the plaintiff's counsel
Like we mentioned, it might not be legal for you to contact the plaintiff directly. Instead, you should send all communications to their attorney. When you file your Answer with the court, make sure to print a copy to send to the plaintiff's attorney in the mail. Their address should be listed on the Summons document you received when you were notified of the lawsuit.
If you choose to send your Answer document in the mail, it's smart to send it via USPS certified mail with a return receipt. This will serve as proof that you notified the opposing party of your response to the lawsuit and your intent to contest it (or fight back).
How to respond to the plaintiff's counsel via email
One thing you need to think about is that everything you put in writing may end up as an exhibit in front of the judge. This means that before you send anything in an email, make sure it is proofread, but also think about how it could affect your side of the case. You want to appear reasonable and non-emotional, only stating facts.
You should also avoid being too friendly with the counsel. Maintain a respectful level of conduct, but keep it professional. Ensure that nothing could be misconstrued in a court of law. This also means you should avoid putting the email address in the “To:” location, before you have fully proofread and ensured the email is ready to be sent. You don't want to accidentally send the email before it's ready.
In some states, electronic filing with the courts is required. This means you can send your court documents to the court and the plaintiff's attorney at the same time. Just enter their email address (listed on the Summons) when you submit your electronic filing.
Respond to a settlement offer
The opposing attorney can reach out to you at any point in the case to discuss a settlement. This might be great news for you, because you might end up paying less with a settlement than a judgment.
After you receive a settlement offer from the plaintiff's counsel, follow these tips when you respond:
- Remain calm and fully analyze the offer. Do not respond emotionally.
- Ask questions about the offer to understand the reasoning behind it.
- Present the facts for why you think you should have a different offer, if applicable.
- Develop a counteroffer (or an acceptance letter if you accept the offer).
- Respond in writing.
When responding to the settlement in writing, you should do so in a formal response in the form of a demand letter. This should be in response to the initial offer notifying the insurer that you are rejecting it. You can focus on any faulty assumptions made by the insurance company that made the initial offer. You will also want to include any details that were not in the original statement.
If you want to initiate the settlement negotiation process, you can try sending a Debt Lawsuit Settlement Letter.
What plaintiffs ask during discovery
After you respond to a debt collection case with an Answer, the case may move to discovery. Discovery is the legal process that gives both sides of the case the chance to submit additional evidence that helps prove their side.
There are many questions that plaintiffs may ask during discovery. For example:
- What did you hear, see, or do in connecting with the case?
- What was said at a particular time and place?
- What is the identity of a particular individual who might know something about the lawsuit?
- Detailed information on how a business is run.
- Documents relating to the case.
- What is the personal, educational, and professional background of the witness?
However, there are a few topics they cannot touch on, including:
- Confidential conversations: Conversations between people of a specific relationship, such as spouses, lawyer/client, doctor/patient, or religious advisors, are protected in a court of law. No one in these relationships can be required to disclose any information, verbal or written.
- Private matters: There are matters that are considered private, including health or body issues, sexuality, sexual practices, sexual partners, spiritual or religious beliefs, and immediate family relationships. These are off-limits in court.
- Privacy rights of third parties: The privacy rights of third parties such as family members, co-workers, or any witnesses, are off-limits.
SoloSuit can file your Answer for you in all 50 states.
What is SoloSuit?
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
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